#7: Inspire Interview Series – MICHELLE KEILL, NOVELIST

I have LOVED working on the Inspire Interview Series this year (catch up with any you missed here!) and getting to chat to so many amazing people about the cool stuff they’ve done with their lives. To round off 2018, I wanted to share with you a really special one.

1409DC03-D1AD-4569-897C-F37D4E88C22ELast year I was quite stressed out and disillusioned and needed a break and some inspiration, so I disappeared off to Paris for a weekend as it’s my favourite city in the world. Outside the bookshop (my spiritual home!) Shakespeare and Company, I discovered a book on a bench that had been left as part of a BookFairy Drop (where people leave books all around major cities and towns for others to discover)… and I was hooked. That was how I first connected with Michelle – through her gorgeous, haunting novel The Four Women (available here), and its characters, and I suppose above all – Paris.

Michelle Keill is a beautiful writer and novelist, and has kindly taken the time to answer a few of my Inspire Interview questions… so here’s hoping this kickstarts your New Year with a little creativity.

Writers are some of my favourite people because I’m fascinated by what they create, I get so excited when I get to talk to them – so without further ado, let’s chat to Michelle about her awesome work!

B: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

M: I’m not sure it was something I wanted to ‘be’, but it’s something I’ve always done. One of my earliest memories is of sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ house writing stories with a crayon (in those days I also illustrated – badly, but more competently than I would do now).

B: What is the best thing, and what is the most difficult thing about being a writer?

M: The best thing, apart from the excuse to drink tea to excess and buy lots of pretty notebooks, is the opportunity to take myself out of reality and create a new one. Also, the potential to provide an escape for people: hearing from readers who’ve connected with the book is wonderful. As for the most difficult thing, any form of creative expression makes you vulnerable, and that feeling is hard to get used to. I find writing the first draft is the easiest part of the process – from there it gets harder, with all the rewriting and editing.

B: Can you give a little teaser about your novel The Four Women for anyone who hasn’t read it?

M: The book is about a young woman living in Paris whose world is drastically transformed by four women who enter her life, seemingly from nowhere, and introduce her to a reclusive and enigmatic tutor whom, they promise, can teach her French. On meeting him, she discovers that although he is indeed as brilliant as they described, he may not have the best of intentions. It’s a love story, but a dark one, and explores the theme of how much of our lives is predetermined, and what is simply chance. If I could give my characters one piece of advice it would be to be careful what you wish for, and to follow your instincts and stay true to yourself. Advice I try to keep in mind myself, actually.

B: What are you currently working on at the moment?

M: A collection of short stories, which should be published in 2019. I also have a romantic comedy and another Paris novel in the works.

B: Any tips for aspiring writers?

M: Write what enthrals and engages you, rather than what is popular or selling well at the moment (unless that is what enthrals and engages you!). You’re in charge of what you put on the page, so be sure it’s a genre or story that you feel passionate about. And read a lot. But, mostly, just write. 

B: Can you describe a writing day in the life of Michelle Keill?

M: Despite not being a morning person, my best time to write is first thing, so I try to make an early start. Then I’ll keep going until about two in the afternoon, which is usually when I feel my creative energy fading. I might push on into the evening if I’m working on a key scene or if I’m really in flow, but I find my mind is clearer earlier in the day. I need to be free of distractions (i.e. no phone), but I need music on when I write, otherwise it’s not happening.

B: What has been the most challenging part of getting to where you are today?

M: I developed a serious illness in 2014, which struck without warning and came close to getting the better of me. I ended up having emergency surgery to save my lung, which was frightening. From there it was a long road back to health. I wrote ‘The Four Women’ as I was recovering: while my body was restoring itself, my creativity was resetting too. I look back and I’m amazed that something good came from such a harrowing experience.

B: What does 1) ‘happiness’ and 2) ‘success’ mean to you?

M: Happiness for me can be as simple as spending a rainy day indoors lying on the sofa with a book and a cuppa. Same for success: if one person reads my book and enjoys it, then I consider that a win.

B: Best life advice you’ve ever been given?

M: Treat other people as you’d want to be treated yourself. And, from my mum, always make sure you have a decent mascara.

B: Best career advice you’ve ever been given?

M: Treat everyone you encounter at work, no matter what their role, with equal courtesy. The person at the bottom today may be at the top tomorrow. I think that came from my mum too.

B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?

M: My friends inspire me with their kindness, loyalty, and courage. Also, if I’m in a tricky situation, I often think, ‘What would Michelle Obama do?’ That always gets me on the right track.

B: What does ‘balance’ mean to you?

M: It means leaving a bit of energy in the tank and not pushing too hard (I’m still learning how to do this!). It means pausing and not always rushing to the finish line. Sometimes you have to slow down in order to speed up.

B: What’s your life’s mission in a nutshell?

M: To make a positive contribution to the world.

B: What inspires you to write?

M: People, faces, and places. Or sometimes just a line in a song. 

B: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be in another life?

M: Perhaps a doctor, if I could make the grade.

B: If you had to spend the rest of your life with one fictional character, who would it be?

M: Ross from ‘Friends’. He’s intelligent, sensitive, musical (!), and enjoys lounging around on sofas drinking hot beverages.

B: How do you take care of yourself and make sure you get the right ‘work life balance’, if there is such a thing?

M: Following my illness, I’ve learned to listen to my body (not quite sure I’ve mastered it yet). If you’re working too hard, or not getting enough sleep or eating properly, your body will usually drop a few subtle hints to let you know. I make sure I pay attention to those early warning signs, and try to take it a bit easier when I feel I need to.

Quickfire

Physical books or ebooks?

Physical, definitely. I love to see rows of bulging bookshelves.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Dinner.

Forests or beaches?

Forests. Bonus points if there are squirrels.

Walking or running?

Walking.

Favourite place?

Paris, Washington D.C., and my bed.

Dancing or yoga?

Dancing.

Nature or nurture?

Nurture.

Talent or hustle?

Talent.

Chocolate or cheese?

Cheese. I’m all about the cheese.

Fave self-care ritual?

A hot bath, a book, and a cup of Earl Grey.

A good book or Netflix?

A good book, but I can’t pretend I could function without Netflix.

Fave quote:

Not a quote as such, but JFK’s ‘we choose to go the moon’ speech always gives me a boost when I’m feeling overwhelmed, incapable, or my courage is failing me.

Top 3 books?

Hard to choose just three, but …

1. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

2. Misery by Stephen King

3. Tampa by Alyssa Nutting

Tea or coffee?

Tea, all day long. With plenty of milk.

Who would attend your dream dinner party (living or dead, fictional or real!)

Frank-N-Furter, Oprah Winfrey, Juliette Binoche, Romesh Ranganathan, Don Lemon, Charlie Brooker, Stephen Colbert, and Freddie Mercury (I’d have to invite my mum too if Freddie was there).

If you had a ‘death row dinner’ – a last meal that could be anything you want, favourites, whatever… what would it be?

Pizza, followed by homemade apple crumble (custard mandatory). All followed, of course, by a large cup of tea.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights Michelle, I am so excited to read more of your work as I still get shivers thinking about The Four Women!

Hope you all enjoyed hearing more about life as a novelist, and if you’d like to connect further, you can find Michelle on Goodreads here, Instagram here and Amazon here.

B xoxo

Advertisements

Staying Zen while spinning multiple plates! (Bust stress & anxiety for Autumn)

autumn autumn colours autumn leaves beautiful
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Everyone gets stressed and anxious, some more than others, but pretty much everyone can relate in some way! It’s become such a ‘thing’ (people talk about being busy and stressed and anxious 24/7 these days!) that we’re all looking for easy ways to de-stress all the time. While there aren’t any magic solutions, there are some effective tried-and-tested techniques, all of which help me manage my mood and hopefully will help you manage yours too!

Zen-up your life & feel better for Fall

Sweat

  • Wake up early for a workout. This literally kickstarts your day in the best possible way, releases a rush of endorphins, boosts mood and creativity and is great for physical and mental health.

Snooze & hydrate

  • Make sure you’re getting 7 hours sleep a night, minimum.
  • Drink water! 80% of the human body is made up of water so it is ESSENTIAL!

Break free from the desk trap

  • Get away from your desk at any opportunity you can – easier said than done most days, but even a 20 minute walk at lunch, extra trips to the loo or to grab a coffee… movement and a change of scene always helps!

Get ruthless with social media – detox those screens!

  • Minimise social media usage if it’s making you compare yourself with others. De-toxify your insta and facebook by unfollowing and unfriending anyone who is making you feel bad – it’s not selfish to prioritise your sanity! An instagram cull can be so mentally cleansing if people’s content is irritating, making you envious or feel inadequate, or just isn’t what you want to see! It’s YOUR FEED. You decide.

Cut the caffeine (sorry!)

  • Reduce caffeine as much as possible – caffeine will amp up your stress levels and elevate your heart rate, and try to stop drinking it after lunch or it will still be in your system when you’re trying to go to sleep – true story!

Rewire your brain & delete ‘perfectionist’ from your vocabulary – rest is valuable!

  • Sometimes it’s okay to be good enough and not always work the overtime or volunteer for an extra project. Remember that, and rest up. You’re no good to anyone burned out!

Not just for New-Ageys… the science supports yoga and meditation

  • Yoga and meditation are amazing ways to promote what scientific studies have termed the ‘relaxation response’ – an alteration of your chemical state that is good for body and mind! They also help build resilience and flexibility, both mental and physical.

Fresh air ‘n’ breeeeeathe

  • Go outside – even just for 2 minutes – if you feel overwhelmed. It can totally shift your perspective, break up the day and give you a second to collect yourself.

Just. Say. NO.

  • Learn to say no – if you don’t want to go to that social thing, just get out of it and look after yourself. FOMO is so 90s. There’s no need for it!

Ditch public opinion & love yourself

  • Work on getting comfortable in your skin and not stressing about what other people think about you – whether you do this with yoga, meditation, journalling, sport, art, therapy, or all or none of these – honestly, it’s LIFE CHANGING. At 27 I had some mega realisations about living MY LIFE and liberating myself from being concerned with other peoples’ views of me… and it is honestly insane once you get there in the BEST POSSIBLE WAY. Obviously we’re all human and so relapse sometimes, but overall… I promise, you’ll feel amazing.

Re-prioritise… the good stuff

  • Recognise that work isn’t everything. Once you prioritise your relationships and your loves (be it a boyfriend, boxing, or family) you’ll feel so much more content with life. No-one dies wishing they’d spent more time at the office, however driven.

Nostrils, nostrils, nostrils (pranayama baby!)

  • Pranayama breathing, aka alternate nostril breathing. Sounds a bit mad, but I love this stuff… try it! It works. Go on. Give it a google.

Be curious!

  • Cultivate curiosity in new things, be it exploring, or learning a new language. Being stimulated in non-worky non-burnouty ways is so great for stress busting and feeling like you’ve achieved something, and re-invigorating your inspiration levels.

So, there you have it, my favourite ways to stay zen while spinning plates (or try to!) No-one is perfect and no-one can be chill all the time, but the nearer I get to 30 the more I realise what matters to me, and feeling happy and mentally and emotionally healthy is more of a priority than ever – I no longer have the obsession with beating myself up about things and stressing to the max… so I hope this helps you get happier too 😉

B xoxo

 

 

4 simple tips: become more CONFIDENT

mountains nature sky sunny
Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

Anytime I see posts and articles about this I find it SO INTERESTING because I feel like we all get insecure sometimes and want to be a little more confident.

I’m a super shy person. Always have been. But I am less painfully shy than I used to be, to the point where now often people don’t believe I’m shy (maybe they think I’m awkward instead hahaha…!)

Confidence is this weird thing, right? You see people who literally are just so free and don’t give AF and are able to share their ideas, boss something in the gym without embarassment or speak up at work… I’ve often wished I could buy it in a bottle (champagne doesn’t count if you wanna keep your job guys!)

In my first job at Vouchercodes.co.uk, a lot of ‘pitching’ was involved – and I had to deliver the pitches myself. I was 21, super shy, not at all confident, I felt inadequate and ridiculous, and could barely speak in internal meetings, let alone with clients! We also had to present in company-wide meetings weekly, and it nearly gave me a heart attack.

I’ve always hated public speaking. I’d shake – as in PHYSICALLY SHAKE. I’d feel sick. I’d cry on the phone to my dad every morning.

But you know what? Being forced to do it again and again means that 1) I know if forced, I can… I even gave a speech at a wedding a couple of years ago! and 2) where speaking in a meeting of 3-10 people used to terrify me, now I know how to do it.

How?

Practice, basically. I’d practice my pitches to my boyfriend, on the phone to my dad, I’d set up meetings with my boss to practice with her, I’d listen to her and make notes on how she did it… and then the worst bit was just making myself do it.

To help, I qualified to teach fitness so I had to stand up in front of a class so I could learn to do it somewhere I enjoyed. And it really, really helped. But you have to decide to put the work in.

All of that ground work is the only reason I could go to an interview at a magic circle law firm and get a job as a lawyer, because if I’d gone in post-graduation at 21, I’d have fallen to literal bits and been a nervous wreck.

I mean, I’m still an introvert, I like to recharge solo as much as possible rather than socialise, and that’s totally okay! I can still be awkward and weird hahaha… but I got over that crippling shyness and if I managed to, anyone else can too.

So here are my tips! And yes, ultimately it really is a case of fake it (or try!) until you make it!

1. Stop hiding behind the ‘it’s just my personality, I’m shy’

This is tough love, I know. I used to have panic attacks about doing public speaking, and I’ll never love it. BUT if you repeatedly practice exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations, you WILL adapt. Be gentle with yourself, do it gradually, you don’t have to be too mean to yourself. But the big key is to stop making excuses and decide to make a change. The way to start is to jump in and practice whatever it is that makes you uncomfortable. 

Set small goals initially. Baby steps. Then as you get into your stride, you can take the leaps and bounds.

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

2. Physical strength builds mental strength

Did you see this one coming? 😉 Fitness is amazing for releasing feel-good hormones (endorphin pump is REAL y’all) but it also shows you the power of practice – little by little you increase strength and/or cardio fitness and it shows you change IS possible, which should give you the confidence to keep trying new things!

I did a Kayla Itsines leg workout the day of my training contract interview and it literally saved me hahaha!

3. Re-train your brain: the long bit!

How much time do you spend worrying about what other people think about you? I read an amazing book called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k and it suggested you have a think about the important things in your life that you DO and are WILLING to give a fuck about. Anything not on that list? It’s not within your fuck budget. Let that shit gooooooo!

How your life feels to you is more important than how it looks to other people

Trust your own choices and stop talking to yourself in a negative way in your head. Try just repeating (silently or aloud!) ‘I CAN do this’ or something similar. It sounds super American and cheesy but when your habit is to tell yourself you CAN do something instead of saying you CAN’T, it does make a massive shift in your mindset.

Too scared to try something in the gym? Feel stupid, watched, embarassed? Re-train your thought process to be like SO WHAT? What’s the worst that could happen? They’d laugh at you? (I guarantee the other people there won’t, they’re too busy doing their own workouts, but even if they did…) Worse things happen at sea, guys.

The ego likes to try and protect us from laughter or scorn from others, but I think as a result it goes into overdrive and makes us think 99% of the time people are judging us when actually they don’t really care or even notice what we’re doing! Your opinion and that of those you love (and maybe the person who pays you!) is the only one that counts. Let everything else go. Even if the worst case scenario comes true and you’re super embarassed – so what? Once you start approaching things this way, and not minding looking silly, you’ll 100% feel liberated.

I used to experiment with my hair tonnes as a kid, but my dad’s side of the family always made comments about it, and gradually I think I stopped wanting to experiment. I started to think I had to have long hair to prove I was a girl (?! wtf ?! seriously ?!) as comments would often be about short hair being ‘boyish’. As my EDs got stronger and my confidence got lower, I felt like I was way too ugly for short hair and needed long hair to distract from it. How crazy is that?!

So, recently, (and also once a year and a half ago!) I chopped all my hair off again from my boobs to my collarbone, and it’s super liberating… and I now don’t care what anyone else things, apart from me and my boyfriend basically!

Basically, work, fitness, gym, wherever… there’s a bit of work to be done on realising that you just need to go with your gut. And if it all goes wrong and you look silly… you’re not dying, you’re still alive and have soooo many good things going on… so focus on that ❤

Admittedly some of it comes with age too. The nearer  I get to 30, the better able I am to shake off anyone who bugs me and stick to my fuck budget 😉

Books for this process that I’d recommend (although you may have to take with a pinch of salt as they can get a bit too hippyish, but I do still love them!) are Life Tonic by Jody Shield and Hungry For More by Mel Wells.

4. Daily meds*

*meditations, of course!

Whether you hate the idea of meditation as woo woo, you’re a hippy spiritual moon-child or [insert other extreme here], meditation has been proven by various reputable scientific studies to have a positive effect on the brain due to its promotion of the ‘relaxation response’, a physiological change in the body as a result of the ‘relaxed’ state.

So. For the purposes of confidence, meditation’s mention here is twofold:

  1. it teaches you increased focus, which makes you better able to let go of nagging, negative thoughts like ‘I can’t do this, I’m too scared, I’m too shy, I’m too anxious, why is everyone else more confident/smarter/prettier/cleverer than me…’ and breathe, and master your emotions.
  2. it connects you better with yourself and your thought patterns, and by being more present with yourself, you eventually come to realise that you’re not your thoughts… you’re the observer of your thoughts. So you can actually create change and not let thoughts control you, but also it should increase your ability to spend time with yourself, feel good within yourself and actually (god forbid if you’re British) LIKE YOURSELF. Like, what is this madness?!

Also, her style may not be for everyone, but Jody Shield does a meditation series (with a track specifically relating to confidence) if you fancy giving it a try. Despite my atheist and decidedly not spiritual views, I really like her stuff – I find her voice super relaxing.

So, how are we feeling?

Hopefully some of these help a bit… Would love to hear any more you can add!

Also check out this piece on how to be confident by Rose The Londoner and this FREE fierce confidence workshop / livestream replay with Jody Shield to help you get started!

B xoxo

You may also wanna browse:

Ways to boost body confidence on bad days – without working out!

Careers section – Inspire Interview Series plus work tips, resources and confidence building

Body Confidence: talking about taboos, fat loss and some tips!

How to stay motivated to fit in workouts with an office job

Motivation 101: get it and keep it

Is it vain to have a fitness instagram?Is it vain to have a fitness instagram? + dangers of social media

Sparkle: resources to find yours

#Inspire Interview 5: MEL WELLS (actress, best-selling author, speaker, food & psychology coach!)

 

 

Top 10 EASY ways to stay workout-motivated!

woman balancing
Photo by antas singh on Pexels.com

Sometimes our insta feeds get filled with post-workout selfies and when you’re having a day or a week where you reeeeeally don’t feel like working out, it can actually be really off-putting.

Everyone has, at some point or another, hit a bump where they just don’t feel like working out. It’s completely normal! I LOVE training but I still have this happen to me sometimes. But over time I’ve gotten used to it, and figured out some easy ways to slide back into the zone. So – what are the easiest ways to pick yourself back up?

Social media

This is a double edged sword. Scrolling for motivation can be helpful, but it can also make you feel rubbish. I recommend, first and foremost, an ‘unfollow’ spree – stop following ANY accounts that annoy you, make you feel not good enough or make you compare yourself with them. It’s not a comment on their content! It’s just protecting yourself. Similarly, start following accounts you do find helpful and inspiring.

Book classes!

This is an obvious one, but super useful. Kobox, Core Collective, Psycle, F45, whatever your jam – buy some credits and book some classes, and you won’t want to waste the money!

Make sure you’re doing workouts you love

If you hate running, for example, or weightlifting (or if you used to like it but you’re now over it) – change it up! Don’t do it anymore, do something else.

Ignore what’s ‘optimal’ because if obsessing about that is making you not want to train, then in trying to optimise your workouts you’re ironically stopping yourself from training… not the desired outcome!

Love netball? Join a team! Curious about #bbg? Download Kayla’s app! Always wanted to try boxing / capoeria / modern dance / athletics / volleyball / trail running…? Sign up to a class or a team or club.

Set some goals that make you want to progress

For example, I REALLY want to improve my pushups and be able to do 20 effortlessly, super quick. So that motivates me to train upper body, even on days I don’t feel like it. Maybe your goal is to run 5k, 10k, or a half marathon… maybe it’s to do a pull up, maybe it’s to increase the height of your box jump, or learn a new style of dance… whatever you think sounds like something you want to achieve, set the goal and then work towards it.

Be honest: are you making moves or excuses?

Yes, rest and recovery is important, but don’t fall into the trap of using it as an ‘excuse.’

You do need 2-3 rest days a week (ideally active rest, so still lots of walking, and maybe gentle movement like yoga or swimming) but stop using this to disguise the fact you can’t be bothered. It’s FINE to have a day where you’re like nah, today’s not the day, but own the decision. I like to schedule my rest days at the beginning of the week so they’re mindful. Ultimately it’s about being honest with yourself and in tune with how you feel!

Schedule workouts like you would meetings

This speaks for itself, right? By scheduling workouts you don’t really need to exert much willpower to go. They’re already in your diary.

Remember your why

Remember all the reasons we work out in the first place! It’s AMAZING for reducing stress, keeping us fit and healthy as we age, it has important cardiovascualr and longevity benefits, so keep in mind that it’s for your mental and physical health! Try to imagine the endorphin buzz you feel after a workout, and mentally re-create that feeling. Focus on those process based goals we talked about above – being able to do push ups or pull ups or whatever! And lastly, it’s okay to think about your aesthetic goals as long as it’s from a healthy, positive place, not a guilt-ridden one! Exercise isn’t a punishment!

Eat well for energy

Eating healthily, with a balanced plate of carbs, protein and healthy fats, plus ensuring you’re eating a rainbow of fruit and veggies (the easiest way to get in all those good vitamins and minerals – as you all know I’m all about the micronutrients and phytochemicals!) is the best way to fuel both your body AND mind. Carbs are essential for seratonin production which is a key hormone in your moods and staying happy! If you’re down, blue, grumpy and hangry and nutrient-deprived you’re less likely to train. Look after your body on the inside too and you’ll be primed for a productive sweat session! I also find that when my nutrition is good, I feel more motivated to take care of myself in other ways too like working out, and I feel so much happier and more energised!

A spoonful of caffeine helps the workout go down…!

Be careful with this! Make sure you always have a glass of water with your caffeine as caffeine is dehydrating. But several studies have shown caffeine can help boost your workout – my understanding is it lowers your perceived rate of exertion, so you don’t feel like you’re working as hard as you are, enabling you to go harder or longer! There’s a reason preworkout is sold to bodybuilders. Personally, I now steer clear of preworkout as I worry about all the other crap in it, but I grab either an espresso, or a black coffee, or even matcha.  This especially helps me as I like to train fasted as my body struggles to exercise after food, so I love having a bit of a supercharge to my session!

Playlists are key

Make sure you’re not bored of your workout playlist, and I always like to choose ‘pump’ tracks – tracks that get me excited and want to make me get moving. This can be anything from a super motivating soundtrack to the Spice Girls! Whatever floats your boat. Studies also show that listening to music while training can also lower your perceived rate of exertion, so you don’t feel like you’re working as hard as you are. Go figure!

I hope some of these help get you a bit more motivated to train… you’re not alone if you’re in a bit of a rut and not feeling it, but the important thing is just to brush yourself off, stop beating yourself up and get moving again and you’ll soon feel AMAZING. ❤

B xoxo

Do you need to stop reading and start DOING?

woman with arms outstretched against blue sky
Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

I don’t know about you, but I’m an obsessive reader. This applies to fiction for fun, but also non-fiction, articles, blogs…

If I want to learn about something, I trawl through EVERYTHING I can find on the topic. It’s a little bit weird and obsessive, actually…!

And this can be a really useful (if nerdy) habit, especially if you want to learn how to do or achieve something.

I think education and research is so important and it pays to be well informed! But if, for example, your wellness goals are as follows:

  1. Get healthier by exercising 3 times a week and improving my body composition
  2. Meditate or do yoga or something for stress relief.

They’re great goals to have! Doing some reading about nutrition is going to be key, and if you’re new to exercise, you’ll want ideas for what to do, how to train, how to do it safely… and if you want to reduce your stress levels but don’t know how, have always thought meditation and yoga were a bit woo woo until recently til they became in vogue, you’ll want to do some reading around that too… which type of meditation, how do I do it, how do I know if it’s helping, does it really work, where is my nearest yoga class…?

I’m not for a second advocating skipping your due diligence! But there does come a point where people fall into blackholes of reading about their goals instead of getting up off the sofa and doing it!

It’s almost like we think by READING about the best foods to eat, or the BEST ab exercises, that will give us the results.

Sadly, it won’t.

So as I say – be informed, please do! – but know when to stop.

Staring at articles about celebrity diets and training programmes and how to optimise your training and best butt exercises will not make your dream health (and bonus improved body!) goals any better.

Reading about relaxation, fancy breathing and meditation techniques, or fun buzzfeed things on ’10 things you’ll know if you’re a yogi…’ will not make you less stressed.

You need to do the work darlings.

I have fallen into this trap SO MANY TIMES! I spent money on more nutrition programmes and coaches, read EVERYTHING, stalked celebrity height and body weight stats and how they achieved their results, googled everything to do with nutrition and fitness… It wasn’t until I’d fully healed my eating disorders, seen a Harley Street nutritionist, spent some time in therapy and done a whole lot of soul-searching that I stopped obsessing and started focusing on what I was doing.

Stop worrying about the pros, about what is ‘optimal’. Chances are, you’re not an Olympic athlete.

Regular physical activity, and healthy balanced nutrition will get you where you need to be if your goal is fat loss, for example.

People read about bro splits vs full body days vs intermittent fasting… basically, it’s about finding what works for you, and even IF a study says something else is ‘optimal’ if it doesn’t suit you, you won’t stick at it, so it’s not really optimal for you is it?

I hope this makes sense – I just see so many people get either overwhelmed with information, or get sucked into this idea of perfection by reading everything under the sun rather than making small, sustainable changes.

Just start!

PS. if your goals are fitness and health based, these are the essentials on this site to browse, and from there just get going!

My transformation story – from eating disorders & bingedrinking, to excess bodyfat, to healthy, strong, recovered & BALANCED: how I did it

Motivation 101 – how to get it & keep it!

Emotional vs. Physical hunger and how to train yourself to eat intuitively, without missing out on treats!

The Truth About Carbs!

Workout inspiration

B xoxo

#6 Inspire Interview Series – ALICE MAY PURKISS – FREELANCE WRITER & COPPAFEEL TRUSTEE

mel
Alice May Purkiss, Photo credit: What’sOnDarlington.co.uk

I’m so grateful for some of the interviews I’ve been able to do as part of this Inspire Interview Series – it’s mind-blowing to see the range of different but reeeeeally cooool shizz people can do when they put their minds to it! If you missed any of the previous installments, they’re all collated here on my careers page, so go and check them out!

Today, though, we have an incredibly special Q&A with a phenomenal woman tackling, among other things, proving publishers wrong, writing books, kicking cancer’s ass – in other words, grit and life wisdom from a gorgeous girlboss warrior.

I think  ‘career inspo’ style pieces can end up being very glib, trite, very ‘yeah! postivity woo, follow your dreams!’ and I wanted to make sure I’m sharing real stories, real experiences with breadth and depth and struggle as well as glossy corporate fairytale stories, so today I think this much deeper, harder, more real interview than any featured so far in this series is the most important – it’s definitely affected me the most of the pieces so far, and I hope you all find what you need from it too ❤

Alice May Purkiss (author of Life, Lemons & Melons, out later this year)

While already battling depression, Alice was diagnosed with cancer. Ultimately, she kicked its ass and survived it, and continues to document her journey on social media (@Alicemaypurkiss) and she has written some incredible pieces on her experience and given a range of speeches and workshops. She is now a freelance writer, self-published author, trustee for Cancer Charity CoppaFeel and much, much more.

Upon being told by publishers that her social media following wasn’t big enough to publish her memoir about her experience of cancer, depression, and everything in between, Life, Lemons and Melons, Alice successfully crowdfunded the project, sourced illustrators and singlehandedly proved them wrong (click here to pre-order now!) She now works as a freelance writer and has written for Stylist, Metro, Red Online to name a few.

I wanted to share as much as possible of the insights from this awesome human with you, both life lessons, career and writing, because I think we all struggle with figuring out what we’re doing, where we’re going, career stuff… but this is a girl who did it / is doing it while simultaneously frying much, MUCH bigger fish… so without further ado, let’s go over to Alice.

The lesson is this: depression or no depression, PTSD or no PTSD, cancer or no cancer, any emotions you are feeling are valid. You’re feeling them for a reason. We’re all guilty of shutting ourselves down when we’re experiencing emotions that feel more intense than we’re used to. But they are part of the human experience. They are part of what it is that makes us a human. Without sorrow we cannot know joy. Without loss we cannot know gratitude. I know it sounds trite. I know it sounds a bit airy fairy, a bit wishy washy and probably a bit like I’ve read too many books on feelings but we are consistently told to keep our emotions in check because we are scared of how our feelings will be perceived. But if your emotions are on extra loud, for whatever reason, sit with them for a while. Don’t try to get rid of them. Recognise them. Learn from them. – Alice May Purkiss, Life, Lemons & Melons

B: Please could you give a little intro of your journey of the last few years for anyone who doesn’t know you from social media?

A: Writer. Avid eater of food. Northerner on loan to London. Feminist. Had a run in with breast cancer. Trustee for .

B: You’ve been through an incredibly difficult ordeal and what’s been amazing about following your journey is how you’ve managed to transform some of that into a force for good, with your advocating for women checking their breasts for lumps [#CheckYourChebs], writing your book Life, Lemons and Melons, speaking at various events and sharing your experiences… do you have any advice for people struggling with similar (or different but difficult) situations?

A: Life is tough. We are consistently thrown curve balls that keep us on our toes and these can have long lasting and far reaching effects. But there is nearly always some good to be found in the difficult situations, it’s just about switching your view up so you can see it. And it’s important to remember that while every day might not be good, better days will come. Like the sunrise and the sunset, time is constantly moving and the world is always changing, so you won’t feel like you do now forever.

B: This seems like a stupid question as it must change so much, but how has your journey with breast cancer and everything you have to deal with as a consequence changed you and your perspective on life, looking after yourself, and work?

A: I get asked a lot if being diagnosed with breast cancer has changed me – and the honest answer is I really don’t know. Some days I feel like the same person I was before I got sick, other times I feel like a completely different human. I’m a bit of a contradiction really because sometimes it makes me more cautions and other times it makes me more adventurous. I think the best way to describe it is I’m a bit like a twin of myself – with the same basic DNA (minus the cancery cells) but with tweaks to my personality and my outlook. I’ve always been “work to live” rather than “live to work” and this is SO MUCH WORSE now, which is a blessing in many ways but also means I need to give myself a kick up the arse a lot more than I used to. And in terms of looking after myself, this has become completely crucial to me. My body has been battered and bruised and my brain has taken it’s fair share of a battering too – so things like yoga and meditation have taken a bigger priority in my life than ever before.

B: Can you talk a little bit about your process and experience of writing your book Life, Lemons and Melons?

A: The process of writing Life, Lemons and melons has been a pretty long one. I started my “journey” towards publishing this book about 18 months ago, when I secured an agent and he began talking to publishers about my work. They felt that despite the fact that they loved my idea and my writing, I didn’t have a big enough social media following for them to take a punt on me. So I decided to stick it to the man and do it anyway. I launched a Kickstarter and raised £5000 in 30 days last October and since then I have been knee deep in the writing trenches, driven on by nought but my own perseverance and the 176 investors who chose to believe in me with their hard earned dollar. As the book combines a number of difficult topics, it’s taken me quite a lot of time to geth through the chapters, and it’s really important to me that I am looking after myself while writing, so I’ve taken my time and tried not to put too much pressure on myself to get it done. I also have to be in a very particular place mentally and emotionally to write it so I don’t make my way into a mental nosedive, so I have to be really careful. 

B: You moved from a marketing role to going freelance and writing your book – any tips for people looking to do the same?

A: Take your time – don’t rush. The move doesn’t need to happen immediately. Start putting some feelers out for freelance work before you take the plunge and leave your job. And don’t be scared of the peaks and troughs that come with being a freelancer – there are many and they never get easier but where there are troughs there are always peaks.

B: Can you describe a (working/writing) day in the life of Alice Purkiss?

A: God I’m so bad at sticking to a particular schedule so it varies massively from day to day. I still struggle with fatigue so I don’t usually rush out of bed – even if I’m awake (which I usually am) I don’t get up til about 8.30 or 9, then I’ll get my breakfast, have a wash and start my day at 10am, unless there’s anything in particular that needs to be done first thing (usually dealing with social media clients or responding to emails). Then I usually work for a few hours on whatever projects I have on, whether social media management, writing pieces I have been commissioned for, doing the copywriting work that pays the bills or banging out some words for the book. I usually work til around 2 or 3pm. But this can all change if I have an event to go to, or a meeting to attend, or if I want to go for a swim, to yoga or to another exercise class.

B: What has been the most challenging part of going freelance and working for yourself?

A: Being kind to myself when things are difficult financially. Freelancing is so variable – some months I have lots of work coming in, others I don’t. That’s just the way it is for most freelancers but I have a tendency to tell myself I’m not doing enough, not trying hard enough, should be doing more etc etc. So working on treating myself better and learning to relish the downtime has been a big learning curve.

B: You’ve been very open about your struggles with depression before and during your breast cancer, and the importance of mental health which is so inspiring and I’m sure has helped so many people. What would you say to someone who is suffering and needs help or advice?

A: It’s such a hard question because everyone is so different but I think my number one piece of advice is that the sun will come out again. Better days are coming. You will know lightness again. Just hang in there. Kind of reminds me of this section I wrote in the book:

“There is one key thing I have learnt over the last three years. I think this lesson has partially occurred as a result off my extensive CBT and counselling but partly just as a result of living through a trauma and probably as I approach 30 and develop a bit of hindsight on the life that has gone before me. The lesson is this: depression or no depression, PTSD or no PTSD, cancer or no cancer, any emotions you are feeling are valid. You’re feeling them for a reason. We’re all guilty of shutting ourselves down when we’re experiencing emotions that feel more intense than we’re used to. But they are part of the human experience. They are part of what it is that makes us a human. Without sorrow we cannot know joy. Without loss we cannot know gratitude. I know it sounds trite. I know it sounds a bit airy fairy, a bit wishy washy and probably a bit like I’ve read too many books on feelings but we are consistently told to keep our emotions in check because we are scared of how our feelings will be perceived. But if your emotions are on extra loud, for whatever reason, sit with them for a while. Don’t try to get rid of them. Recognise them. Learn from them. Don’t beat yourself up for not reacting the “right” way to something. There is no “right” way. Remind yourself you’re doing the best you can. And if the intense emotions you’re feeling are horrible or scary, find someone to sit with them with you, someone to hold your hand and remind you that everything’s going to be ok. I think every emotion comes to teach us something. We just have to be open to learning.”

B: What does 1) ‘happiness’ and 2) ‘success’ mean to you?

A: 1) Living well and making the most of the life I’ve been given and sharing it with people I love

2) Managing to do the above!

B: What’s your life’s mission in a nutshell?

A: My life’s mission in a nutshell is to do my bit to help stamp out late detection of breast cancer by educating the masses on the signs and symptoms that you should be looking out for when you do your monthly check (that’s why I volunteer with CoppaFeel!). I want people who are struggling with their mental health to know that they are not alone – that they can talk when they are ready and things will get better. I want those people to know that the world is better with them in it. I want to tell stories and go on adventures, to laugh, to be happy and to be healthy for as long as possible

***Quickfire***

Swimming or running?
SWIMMING. Every time.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner?
Dinner (or tea as we call it in the North)

Forests or beaches?
Beaches near forests?!

Nature or nuture?
Nature

Talent or hustle?
Talent

Chocolate or cheese?
Chocolate

Fave self-care ritual?
Yoga

A good book or netflix?
Book

Fave quote:
“Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences” The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Tea or coffee?
Neither. I am a traitor to my Yorkshire kin.

Avocado toast: ridiculous or delicious?

DELICIOUS

Who would attend your dream dinner party (living or dead, fictional or real!)
GOOD ONE. Erm. Margaret Atwood, Bryony Gordon, my Grandma, Zadie Smith, Jon Ronson and Adam Buxton.

The best meal in the world is…
My husband’s mum’s roast ham Sunday dinner with all the trimmings. It’s honestly the best ham I’ve ever tasted. But I also bloody love seafood so anything fishy works for me.

Thanks SO MUCH Alice for sharing all of this, and I can’t wait to read your book!

Check out Alice on social media via the below links, and please do spare a minute to browse the CoppaFeel website and don’t forget to not only #CheckYourChebs but remind all of the lovely ladies in your life to do the same (breast cancer signs and symptoms explained here).

Spend more time with Alice over on her website, instagram, twitter, and read more about Life, Lemons & Melons, out later this year here.

You can also PRE-ORDER her book, Life, Lemons & Melons now for just £10 – click here!

B xoxo

Boobs, cancer, questions, queries…?

If you have any questions or concerns, whether you want to donate or have worries about your own health… have a look at the CoppaFeel website and other relevant charities but please do not hesitate to book a boob check, and speak to a qualified health professional. Other resources include:

Signs & Symptoms of breast cancer – CoppaFeel

Cancer Research UK

Breast Cancer Now – resources

 

#5 Inspire Interview Series – MEL WELLS – AUTHOR, ACTRESS, SPEAKER (+ Health & Food Psychology Coach)

meditation-album.png
Photo credit: melwells.com

Welcome back to another Inspire Interview – I’ve loved doing this series soooo much because I love hearing peoples’ stories and insights into the things that really matter – finding things you love doing, drive to work hard, career, balancing health and a personal life and everything between! If you missed the previous installments, you can catch up with the full list here!

Untitled-design-24
Photo credit: melwells.com

Today we have a very special ‘episode’ – and I say episode because rather than the usual written piece because I have something new for you all…!

Being on camera is not in my comfort zone really at all, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with the incredible Mel Wells and this super driven woman is all about pushing past your comfort zone! You may know her face from Hollyoaks, or you may know her from her brilliant bestselling book The Goddess Revolution and inspiring instagram feed… Mel has also been featured in Forbes Under 30 and was voted No. 1 Young Female Entrepreneur to Watch in the UK by About Time Magazine.

Mel does truly amazing work empowering women to fight back against diet culture and regain their happiness and health – her brand new book Hungry For More encapsulates everything this Inspire Interview Series has been about so settle down with a cup of tea and prepare to be inspired…

Back in London having lived in Bali, and now with a second book to her name (pre-order Hungry For More now to win free access to a special Masterclass with Mel and a chance to be entered to win one of her retreats in Bali – see her website for details!), Mel and I talked about all the BIG stuff – finding your ‘calling’, how food and your habits and relationship around it are reflective of the wider picture of your life and whether or not you’re fulfiled.

Press play on the video now to hear Mel’s story and epic insights into work, life, balance, spirituality, healing eating disorders, figuring out what you want from life, meditation and tonnes more! Plus the usual quick-fire round at the very end of course!

The interview: Mel Wells on being Hungry for More!

Thanks so much for chatting with me Mel! We look forward to reading your book when it’s out on July 10th!

Where to find Mel

170316_MEL_WELLS30854
Photo credit: melwells.com

You can find Mel on instagram here and her website here!

If you’d like to pre-order Hungry For Moreher new book, get over to Amazon baby!

She also has a youtube channel, and you can also check out more on her Goddess retreats (hello Bali!) here.

Want to shop her first book? Get a SIGNED COPY of The Goddess Revolution from her online shop. And if you don’t love a tank that reads ‘green juice now, champagne later’… I don’t even know where to start! 🙂

Thanks for watching and hope you enjoyed the unusual Inspire Interview format! ❤

B xoxo

#4 Inspire Interview Series – FLORA BEVERLEY – SCIENCE MEDIA & PR for Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists & FITNESS INFLUENCER

Welcome back to the fourth installment in the Inspire Interview Series! This installment has the longest title EVER but I didn’t want to short-sell the formidable multi-talent of today’s interviewee…!

white blank notebook
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

It’s been so exciting to talk to a range of amazing people who are all doing incredible work in varied fields… and naturally a running theme through these interviews is also how they balance their drive to achieve with taking care of themselves physically and mentally. (If you’ve missed any, do check back on Kris Pace, KOBOX brand director, Venetia Falconer, TV Presenter, blogger & influencer and Leyla Cooper, Founder & CEO of Pretty Athletic).

13672581_10205346599578896_274304170_n[1]
Photo credit: Flora Beverley – http://www.foodfitnessflora.blog

Today’s Q&A is a pretty cool one because I think it manages to COMPLETELY bust some myths about social media influencers not being smart, and ‘smart’ or academic people not being able to be social media savvy or sporty… plus I found out we shared some work icons which is always fun… so over to the lovely Flora Beverley! (Links to all of her social media channels are down below).

Do what you love ALWAYS, but be sensible. Money is needed to survive, but if your way of money stops you doing what you love, try doing something else. No experience is a wasted experience – I worked in advertising, catering, in a museum, events and social media. All of them have helped me get to where I am today!
Flora Beverley, Science PR & Media at Royal College of Obstetricians, Fitness Blogger & Social Media Influencer

6vJHXqF7_400x400
Photo credit: Flora Beverley, Flora’s Twitter Profile

B: So people may recognise you from your instagram and know you as a fitness blogger – but please can you tell us a bit about your ‘day job’, it sounds like an amazing career that a lot of people don’t even know is out there!

F: I work in Science media at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, so I act as the go-between between scientists and the press. It’s our job to make sure journalists understand the science behind a health story and translate science stories into lay english. We also make sure important research makes its way to the press without being misinterpreted! I also co-run the college’s twitter account so we always have a good online presence.

B: How did you get into science media and discover this was what you wanted to do?

F: I always knew I wanted to do something sciencey that wasn’t just research, as I always loved the arts too. Research is a little dry for me, but science media means I’m always reading the latest research but get to use my creative writing skills to translate it into English. I also obviously love social media, so it’s nice to be able to use my hard-earned social media expertise to advise organisations where social media is not the primary focus but where it is still useful to have. I knew this was the sort of job I wanted from second year at uni, but I didn’t know it actually existed until I applied to and got my first job in science comms!

B: Is it ever a struggle to juggle a full time job with your blogging?

F: I absolutely did over the first 8 months or so. That’s why recently I’ve cut down to 25h a week rather than 35h. I found myself working 8am – 10pm 7 days a week without much rest, which burned me out pretty fast. You can love your jobs all you like, but everyone needs rest! At 25h a week I am able to do 1.5 days extra of blogging. I think I actually work harder on 25h per week and am more productive in both jobs, so it’s definitely a better balance of both. I now also schedule in social media-free days every other week or so, otherwise I’d go mad! It’s hard to take time off when you’re both self-employed and employed by an organisation. [You can also read Flora’s blog post here about staying healthy while working an office job].

B: Do you have any advice for people looking to work in a similar field?

F: I’ve actually written about it on my blog a little. It’s all about showing that you’re interested in science communications and know why it’s so important. A science degree and writing experience are both useful, as a lot of it is translating science jargon to plain English.

B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life of Flora Beverley?!

F: I actually have an entire YouTube video on this! It’s my latest vid 🙂
Tends to go: 7am workout, 8:30am work, 4:30pm work ends, 5:30pm event of some variety. 10pm bed time!

B: What has been the most challenging part of getting to where you are now?

F: Keeping on the track of what I think is best for me. There is a lot of ‘advice’ coming from all directions – parents, friends, my agency – but I’ve found that sticking true to what I enjoy, more than anything, has kept me pretty happy!

B: What are your career goals for the next five years?

Whilst I think that doing pretty much everything I’ve enjoyed over the last few years has been wonderful, as I grow in all the fields I’m in, I think there’ll come a point when I have to decide what I want to specialise in. I’ve always been the sort of person who has managed to fit in literally everything I want to do, but I think there’s a point people reach where it’s in their best interest to cut loose various things so instead of doing 10 things not very well, you choose your favourite 3 and do them 110%. That’ll be a really difficult decision for me, but also I don’t think anything is final, and if it doesn’t work out I can always change my mind. That’s the only thing stopping me panic!

B: Any big misconceptions about the work you do, either your blogging and influencer work or your day job?

F: It’s funny actually – when I speak to older people, they seem way more interested in my work in science media. I think they think that I can’t be that clever if I’m a blogger. When I speak to my generation, everyone’s super interested in the work I do as a blogger, and saying I also work in science media seems to turn them off, like working 2 jobsmeans that I’m not good enough to work full time in social media. Maybe not misconceptions, but definitely preconceptions!

B: You’re always super active and super healthy – do you feel like this positively impacts your work?

F: Yes absolutely – when I lapse a little on the health or exercise front I feel my concentration and mood slipping. Exercise keeps me energetic and good food keeps me alert and happy.

B: What advice would you give to someone trying to figure out what they want to do?

F: Do what you love ALWAYS, but be sensible. Money is needed to survive, but if your way of money stops you doing what you love, try doing something else. No experience is a wasted experience – I worked in advertising, catering, in a museum, events and social media. All of them have helped me get to where I am today!

B: Have you made any mistakes along the way to where you are today and what have you learned from them, if so?

For sure, but I look forward to making plenty of mistakes in the future too. I think I’ve learned to always stay true to myself – even if something ends up being a mistake, if you know you did it for the right reasons, that’s not a problem!

B: What does ‘success’ mean to you?

F: Happiness and family. But I think the meaning can change over time. I think I’m successful now, but if I was in the same position in 8 years time, I would think of myself as unsuccessful – it’s a moving target!
B: Best and worst career advice you’ve ever been given?

F: Best: Don’t listen to what others want you to do. You do you. (I’m yet to fully live by this, but I’m moving in the right direction!)

Worst: Get a job that pays well. I’ve got a job that pays, but it hardly pays WELL comparatively. But I love it and I’m happy, and it’s enough for me to live. That’s all you need!

B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?
F: My friend had a job that she loved until a staffing change made her miserable. Instead of grinning and bearing it, she got up and left. I like to think that if I stopped enjoying what I did, I’d have the confidence to quit and move on. My boyfriend is a huge inspiration – he’s gone through 3 pretty drastic career changes (drummer to gardener to academic) and has never been happier. I think for me these two people are role models for me as I would never want to be someone stuck doing something I hate and hating on others for enjoying themselves.

B: Who are your fave work and fitness icons?

F: Emma Watson and some journalists, such as Stevie Martin, Dolly Alderton, Pandora Sykes etc – all role models in general!
Fitness icons – anyone who really has a passion and chases it. I like people who do a lot of things! Oenone Forbat, Gemita Samarra and Sophie Hellyer spring to mind!

B: Can you describe your weekly fitness routine? I just have to ask, because your abs though…!!!!

F: Also wrote a blog post on this! I tend to box, run and do HIIT around 5h a week. I don’t overdo it!
***Quickfire Round***

Fave workout?
Boxing! Or horse riding, if you count that 🙂

Nut butter or avocado?
Avo
Brian Cox or Richard Attenborough?
Brian Cox – unless you mean David Attenborough, in which case he always wins.
I did mean David Attenborough haha sorry, I think I had the Santa Claus actor on the brain as I only just learned they were related…?! Fail!

Massage or facial?
Massage

Nature or nurture?
Nurture

Talent or hustle?
Hustle

Chocolate or cheese?
Chocolate

You’re doing cardio: podcast or playlist?
Podcast

Chick flick or thriller?
Thriller

Best brunch spot in London?
The lighterman
It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you order/make?
Pad Thai, G&T and cinnamon oatmeal cookies to finish

pexels-photo-230325.jpeg
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Thanks so much for all your insights Flora! If you’re not already, follow her on instagram @foodfitnessflora, facebook here, check out her blog, her twitter, and youtube channel for more! She also has a Personal Q&A video live if there’s anything else you wanna know!

Doing these Q&As has been such a fun process for me as well as people reading and requesting interviews, as I get to learn about jobs I’d never even known about growing up!

Hope you’re all able to check back soon as we have more exciting jobs coming up… it literally makes me want to live several lifetimes so I can try everything!

Until next time…

B xoxo

#3 Inspire Interview Series – LEYLA COOPER – FOUNDER & CEO of PRETTY ATHLETIC

two purple flowers
Photo by Jess Watters on Pexels.com

Happy Friday everybody and thanks for joining for the third Q&A of our Inspire Interview Series! (If you’ve missed any, do check back on Kris Pace, KOBOX brand director, and Venetia Falconer, TV Presenter, blogger & influencer).

Today is a really exciting one because I know so many people dream of starting their own businesses, and even quitting their corporate jobs to pursue passion projects elsewhere…

Find out how the incredible Leyla Cooper, a former lawyer, now Founder & CEO of Pretty Athletic made the switch, and also her expert skincare tips! It’s a really great one because you can tell how much knowledge and hustle she’s poured in to make this wonderful brand a success.

I enjoyed working in law, but the prospect of running my own business and building a skincare brand from scratch was incredibly appealing. I am actually a very risk averse person, but I found myself spending evenings and weekends working on what would become Pretty Athletic and I loved it so much it didn’t feel like work. – Leyla Cooper, Founder & CEO of Pretty Athletic and former lawyer

If somehow you haven’t yet come across this increeeeedible skincare range, it’s a bespoke product line designed especially for active women, and it’s totally ethical (the products are super natural, not at all animal tested, and are registered with the Vegan Society). I came across it one day in Harper’s Bazaar, and fell head-over-heels in love! If you have yet to try their gorgeous products, be sure to visit their instagram, facebook and twitter to get the scoop. I honestly couldn’t recommend them enough, they’ve really transformed my skin.

So without further ado, let’s jump in with Leyla…

person washing his hand
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

B: Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how you came up with the idea for Pretty Athletic?

L: I’ve always enjoyed running and exercise. I used to work as a lawyer, and exercise was something I relied on to help deal with the stress of work and to keep my head clear. Like many busy women I would fit in a workout whenever I could, be it an early morning run or a lunchtime or evening gym session. One day I realised that my skin post-workout was a challenge and amongst all the many skincare products out there for various skin types and situations, I couldn’t find anything specifically designed for active women, be it for pre/post workout skin (i.e. hot, sweaty, stressed, skin) or to help protect and repair skin that is subject to environmental damage whilst exercising outdoors.

B: What made you decide to take the leap and start your own business? What was your working life like before and has it changed a lot? How did you find the transition from working in law?

L: I enjoyed working in law, but the prospect of running my own business and building a skincare brand from scratch was incredibly appealing. I am actually a very risk averse person, but I found myself spending evenings and weekends working on what would become Pretty Athletic and I loved it so much it didn’t feel like work. Then my husband injured his spine (he’s fine now thankfully) and it put things into perspective and I felt that life is short and I had to leave to do this thing that I was passionate about. As for my working life, I worked hard as a lawyer but I work harder now.

B: It’s funny because I really suffered with skin issues when I started training more and waited a long time for a brand targeted at women who workout so I was crazy excited when I discovered Pretty Athletic – but how did you navigate the gap between having an idea when you realised it was something people needed, and creating a product?

L: In a nutshell:  Market research, a fabulous team of cosmetic formulation chemists, hours of product and ingredient research, and lots and lots of testing.

B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life at Pretty Athletic HQ?

L: Sorry to be clichéd, but no one day is the same. Each day I deal with a variety of issues including social media, new product development, website tweaks and improvements, customer enquiries, brand collaborations, marketing, retailers, VAT/invoices/accounts, events, liaising with my business partner and our fabulous intern Laura, and the list goes on..

B: What has been the most challenging part of moving from law to running your own business?

L: The success or failure of the business falls on me- and that’s a lot of pressure.

B: Do you have a favourite Pretty Athletic product?

L: For the face, our Workout Glow as I use it to cleanse and hydrate pre and post workout, and anytime during the day when my skin need a refresh, and I also use it every evening to remove my eye makeup. For the body, our Hydration Kick body moisturiser as I don’t like traditional body moisturisers as I dislike how they feel on my skin, whereas this is a gel not a cream and so it just sinks in and is so refreshing, and also it smells amazing – like a spa.

B: What advice would you give to someone looking to take the leap and start their own business?

L: You have to absolutely love it, as you’ll work harder than you’ve ever done before.

B: Have you made any mistakes along the way to where you are today and what have you learned from them, if so? 

L: I have made many mistakes, and each time I learn not to make those same mistakes again!

B: What are the best and worst bits of working for yourself?

L: The best is the flexibility; if  I want to go for a run at 3 in the afternoon to clear my head,  I can. The worst is that you take everything – such as any rejections – very personally.

B: What does ‘success’ mean to you?

L: Looking back and knowing I did my best.

B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?

L: I have never met her but I look up to and am inspired by Marcia Kilgore (founder of Bliss, Soap & Glory, and Beauty Pie) who despite having been incredibly successful never rests on her laurels and keeps building successful brands and coming up with innovative new ideas.

B: Can you describe your daily skincare regime? What are your top tips?

L: I keep it quite simple. In the morning I cleanse my face and apply moisturiser, plus SPF if the sun is out. Pre/post workout, and also at the end of the day I use our Workout Glow to cleanse and hydrate, and then before bed I alternate between a facial exfoliator and nourishing cleanser, I remove my eye makeup with our Workout Glow, and I then use a face oil. About half my skincare products are Pretty Athletic products or samples of new products from our cosmetic formulators that I am testing, and the other half are from other brands as I like to keep up to date with new products on the market. My top tip? Exercise – it’s amazing for your skin. (Just ensure you cleanse and hydrate after sweating!)

Quickfire

 Fave workout? Running

 Nut butter or avocado? Nut butter

 Massage or facial? Facial

Nature or nuture? Nurture

 Talent or hustle? Hustle

Chocolate or cheese? Chocolate

 You’re doing cardio: podcast or playlist? Playlist

 Moisturiser or face oil? Face oil

 You’re on a desert island and can only have 3 beauty products – what are they? Our Workout Glow, shampoo, and sunscreen.

 It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you order/make? Chocolate.

coffee dark candy chocolate
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

Thanks so much for your insights Leyla!

Find out more about the brand here, and have a browse of the Pretty Athletic blog here.

xoxo

#1 Inspire Interview Series – KRIS PACE, BRAND DIRECTOR of KOBOX

Welcome to the first in this series of Inspire Interviews! These will be permanently available on the careers section of this site, which I’m currently expanding so keep your eyes peeled…

pexels-photo-1030943.jpeg

It’s no secret how much I love KOBOX and their awesome Brand Director, Kris Pace  has generously agreed to answer some questions for us today on all things work, fitness, boxing, branding and a cheeky quickfire round!

It’s always really interesting to go behind the scenes of our favourite brands and companies, as I think so many people aspire to work for places they can be proud of doing what they love.

Don’t get yourself into a position where you’re representing someone or something you don’t care about, because anyone you meet will see right through it. Genuine passion goes so far in this world, and if you’re proud of and fervid about who or what you’re representing, you won’t go far wrong. If you don’t believe in what you’re showcasing to the world, you don’t deserve to be doing it. – Kris Pace, KOBOX Brand Director.

Kris, as mentioned above, is KOBOX’s Brand Director, and formerly worked for Men’s Health. In addition to being a boxing badass (check out his instagram here) he’s doing an incredible work for a boutique fitness concept that has shaken London up a storm, with celebrity fans including supermodel Jourdan Dunn, singers Cheryl Cole and Ellie Goulding, Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts, Made in Chelsea stars JP, Jess Woodley Oliver Proudlock and more.

We touch on this in the interview, but KOBOX really does change lives, and so it’s no wonder the ‘fight club meets nightclub’ has been a roaring success. While KOBOX’s brand is amazing, clearly part of what makes it so incredible is it’s so much MORE than a brand, there’s a real sense of this KOBOX community that they’ve built, and as Kris says below there’s a sense of pride in everyone working there in getting to contribute to something bigger… so let’s dig in to chatting with Kris and find out his secrets to work success, how he ended up this amazing role, and his sport and fitness approach… Plus find out which KOBOX instructors he’d rather hug, marry and waterballoon…!

EF36595E-5F67-493A-8F0E-C10A70342E11.jpeg

B: Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be Kobox’s Brand Director – did you always know this was the kind of work you wanted to do?

K: I met Shane and Ian Streetz when I worked for Men’s Health magazine. The team there wanted to do a 12-week body transformation, through boxing, for a feature. Whilst working there, we’d all heard a lot of good stuff about KOBOX, so we went down to see what it was like, and we knew instantly it was the right place to host the transformation…

Once the feature had finished, I’d loved being there so much that I kept going back, both to train and to socialise. The business was growing rapidly, and the Brand Director role was formed about 6 months later. I jumped at the chance, and the rest is history…

B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life for you at Kobox HQ?

K: Everything and anything can happen in typical day at KOBOX. There are so many variables at a boxing club, you simply have to be on top of everything. My day can vary from cleaning the office and serving protein shakes to conceiving and executing authentic online content or meeting people to further expand one of many sides of the business. But, for definite, the main stream of consciousness for every single employee at KOBOX, daily, is to make sure we’re giving people the best 50 minutes of their day when they come in to take a class.

B: Have you always been passionate about fitness?

K: Sport, all my life. Fitness, all my adult life. I think naturally I like to try new things, and test myself in new waters. I’ve body-built, gone super heavy but then also gone super slim for a triathlon, then tried my hand at boxing… it’s important to see what you’re made of.

B: What advice would you give to someone looking to go into branding/marketing roles?

K: Don’t get yourself into a position where you’re representing someone or something you don’t care about, because anyone you meet will see right through it. Genuine passion goes so far in this world, and if you’re proud of and fervid about who or what you’re representing, you won’t go far wrong. If you don’t believe in what you’re showcasing to the world, you don’t deserve to be doing it.

B: Have you made any mistakes along the way to where you are today and what have you learned from them, if so?

K: Of course, many. I learn something every single day, and I’d never want that to change.

Whether it’s something that has differed from your expectations; something you attested to but it turned out otherwise; or even if it’s something that you’re proved right on, you learn every time. You can’t predict the future, but you can take note and not make the same mistake twice.  

B: What are the best and worst bits of your job? Any top challenges and/or achievements?

K: Genuinely, there are too many best bits to choose from. I get to walk into KOBOX every day, which is a place I fell in love with before I worked there. But to name a few? The team, the ambition, the classes themselves and the difference they make to people’s lives – which is extraordinary, and I feel privileged to be a part of that.

Worse bit? Sloane Square’s on the District Line, which is, without doubt, the most lamentable tube line ever made. Ever. I never moan about it, though. Ask anyone…

B: Do you do KOBOX workouts yourself or do you like to mix up your regime? Any favourite ways to train?

K: If I’m honest, I wish I had more time to do class. It’s tricky for me to pick a class time and stick to it, as my day can change at the drop of a hat. But I love Core Day!

Away from class, I like to lift weights, but with a circuit/HIIT element to it… I’ve started to round up the trainers to participate, which helps with the old wilting willpower!

B: Best and worst career advice you’ve ever been given?

K: Best: Trust your gut.

Worst: Tailor yourself to the role.

B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?

K: I wouldn’t say one in particular. A lot of people are full of hot air, but there are also people who talk a lot of sense. Pick attentively what ‘words of wisdom’ you take with you.

B: Who are your fave fitness icons?

K: Eric ‘The King’ Cantona. My all-time sporting hero, but not necessarily a fitness icon. It’s hard to look past Rich Froning in that sense – what he’s achieved is incredible. I think he now defines modern-day fitness.  

B: And finally, what does ‘success’ mean to you?

K: Retiring when I’m 35.

Joke. Building something that will outlast you.

B: Bonus question: which Kobox instructor would you least like to get in a ring with and why?!

Any of them, they’d all batter me in the ring.

**Quickfire Round**

Fave combo on the heavy bags:

2. 2. 2. 2. 2. 2…

Eggs or oats?

Oats.

Burpee or bear crawl?

Neither, they’re both grim.

Nature or nurture?

Nurture. It’s the only thing we have control over.

Talent or hustle?

Hustle.

The best KOBOX shake on the menu?

Peanut Uppercut. Or the Suckerpunch (just because I named it).

Chocolate or cheese?

Chocolate.

Boxing or MMA?

Boxing.

You have to hug, marry and water-balloon 3 kobox instructors – which ones do you choose?! 😉

Hug: Ollie. Who doesn’t want to cuddle the #BrownBear?

Marry: Maciela. She’s just awesome.

Water-Balloon: Ian Streetz. He wins at everything and I’ve had enough of it.

Fave movie:

Rockstar.

It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you order/make?

A proper, old-school Indian. Not one of these fancy new ones.

Thanks so much Kris for answering all of these questions and sharing your work and fitness insights! You can find Kris on instagram here, and all things KOBOX here. Keep an eye out for the next Inspire Interview coming soon!

B xox